Monday, June 04, 2007

Taking the Lord's name in vain

You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain. –– Exodus 20:7 (NAS)

You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name. --Exodus 20:7 (NIV)

Exactly what is "misusing his name?"

I was always taught that verse meant not to say things like,"Oh my God!"..."Good Lord!"..."Jesus Christ!" when expressing surprise, disgust, or whatever emotion I might be feeling. ("Oh my gosh!" was an acceptable substitute. :) ).

I had a new revelation the other day, though.

Most people I talk to about coming to the inner city already have their predetermined ideas of what they want to do and how they want to accomplish it. However, what the inner city needs is not always what people from the outside have decided they want to give. As a result, when I make different suggestions of what we need...that aren't usually so "hands on"...I often hear the response, "I'm not sure. Let me pray about it and I'll get back to you."

I've begun to notice a pattern with people once they say, "Let me pray about it.": Their answer is always, "No."

Perhaps the people who are "praying about it" are in tune with God's will, which is why they had their plan already in place. Maybe that's why their answer always comes back as, "No, we'll find something else."

However, my other speculation is that perhaps, "Let me pray about it," is simply exploiting a Christian phrase and using God as a cop out.

That may seem cynical, but it was really interesting to me the other day when I thought back and could not recall one time anyone said, "Hmmm...I'm not sure about that. Let me pray about it," and then got back to me with a change of heart or mind (they actually usually never call back...even though they say they will).

I understand that there are many different ways to serve and many different ways to demonstrate Christianity. What I suggest to people who call is just one way.

What has begun to bother me over the years, however, is the way people exploit religion in the process of giving an answer. From what I can tell, "Let me pray about it," has become an acceptable phrase to say to get us off the hook...and it's an expected phrase in the world of religion.

Are we really "praying about it?" Are we really willing and open to new suggestions? Or do we just say that so we can be "seen by men" as religious?
And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. --Matthew 6:5a
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